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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Be a Good Sport

Sports can unite us. We rally around teams, cheering them on from the couch or an icy stadium seat. This time of year, football and basketball grab headlines, thanks to pro football’s playoffs and Super Bowl and college basketball’s NCAA Final Four. Both sports can do more than ignite fans though; elements of each can bring excitement and vigor to meetings and events. Perhaps it’s a conference kickoff in a football stadium luxury suite, a meet-and-greet with a former NBA standout or a tailgate networking event in a college town known for its winning football program. So, make a game plan and have a ball.


At these halls of fame, everyone’s a champ

If football and basketball had holy places, they would be the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. In Canton, hall of famers can be hired to swoop in for private events. Imagine the excitement former Minnesota Viking Cris Carter, Dallas Cowboys’ Emmitt Smith or Green Bay’s LeRoy Butler could bring to a reception in a sporty space like the Hall of Fame Presentation Center. In Springfield, no one will have trouble finding the Hall of Fame — just look for the gleaming two-story basketball, an eye-catching architectural feature that links the hall’s two wings. A spotlight event space, Center Court has a basketball court, a balcony and dome ceiling. During an evening event, guests can fast break through 40,000 square feet of exhibits. Downtown hotels are nearby, but even closer is the Hilton Garden Inn Springfield, on the hall’s grounds.

Put sports stars in the spotlight

From pep talks about teamwork to tips on setting goals, former football and basketball players and coaches are happy to deliver. All American Entertainment, Sports Speakers 360 and Athlete Speakers book sports figures, with fees starting in the $5,000 to $10,000 range to 10 times that or more for headliners like Joe Theismann, LeMar Odom, Deion Sanders, Tiki Barber and Kenny Smith. Most athletes will talk about their sport and careers, but many also tackle subjects like Black history, diversity, mental health, fitness, Christian values and leadership. The lineup is male dominated, but among the female athletes available are dynamos like Kara Lawson, head women’s basketball coach at Duke, and Katie Sowers, the first openly gay coach in the NFL.

Score points with a sporty party theme

A party with a football or basketball theme should be all fun and games, starting with food. For example, tailgating is pregame football fun that can be replicated in a convention hall or hotel parking lot. This is no stuffy sit-down dinner, so lean into food that’s easy to eat while standing — snacks like meatballs and wings. Deliver cocktails and mocktails in water bottles like players use or in cups stamped with the local team’s logo. For entertainment, have a team mascot pop in for pictures or invite cheerleaders or a pep band to rally the crowd. Better yet, divide your guests into teams and challenge them to create and demonstrate their own cheers. Don’t forget to provide them with some pom-poms. Or organize a free-throw-shooting or football-passing contest. It’s easy to do anywhere, thanks to Nerf balls and goals. And, what’s always a winning game at a sports theme event? Sports trivia.

Champion teams give college towns cache

Success in college sports has elevated the profile of many smaller cities. You can score points in these towns by holding events at the colleges and universities that have made them famous. For example, in Lexington, Kentucky, home of the University of Kentucky Wildcats, convention goers can meet in an expanded, renovated convention center that’s linked to UK’s home court, Rupp Arena. In Lawrence, Kansas, where the University of Kansas rules, campus is dotted with meeting spaces including sports complexes, the Jayhawk Club, Jayhawk Welcome Center, a classroom building with a green roof, and right next to campus, the Oread Hotel. Even when the University of Michigan isn’t playing, Ann Arbor rocks. Plus, the school’s campus is rich with gathering places including “The Big House,” also known as Michigan Stadium. It’s the largest stadium in the U.S., worthy of a guided tour and packed with venues like Jack Roth Stadium Club, with its views of the playing field and campus.

Need inspiration? Look to winning coaches

Business leaders often look to winning coaches for inspiration as they build and lead their teams. Two legends, college basketball’s John Wooden and pro football’s Vince Lombardi, are long gone, but books about how they managed to mold championship teams, year after year, live on. Lombardi’s son, lawyer Vince Lombardi Jr., has written numerous books about his dad’s years as coach of the Green Bay Packers. “The Lombardi Rules: 26 Lessons from Vince Lombardi — the World’s Greatest Coach” is one of them. Among the books written about Wooden and his 27 successful seasons at UCLA is “The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership.” If you are looking for more recent books, not written by coaches, check out Texas A&M basketball coach Buzz Williams’s bookshelf. On average, Williams reads a book a week; among them are “Hidden Genius,” “Thanks a Thousand,” “Atomic Habits,” “Next Level Thinking,” “Discipline is Destiny,” “The Happiest Man on Earth,” and “The Power of a Humble Life.”